Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Megapolitan regions

This week has seen some interesting news coverage of a new book Megapolitan America by Arthur Nelson and Robert Lang. The Atlantic Cities showed a map of large regions of interconnected metropolitan areas.

These megapolitan regions are expected to house two thirds of the U.S population by 2040 and are seen as the interface with the global economy. Such agglomerations drive growth through the external economies that they generate. Economic geographers argue that concentration of economic activity cumulatively causes a thick labour market, specialised suppliers of intermediate inputs and knowledge spillovers 'that are in the air'. The end result is lower costs and faster growth.

The coverage by The Atlantic Cities focussed on the role that infrastructure can play in supporting such agglomerations. The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is presented as a success in coordination of infrastructure investment between metro regions.

In South Africa drawing a map like this of economic activity (local GDP) is complicated and the topic of a lot of my data work planned for this year. It is slightly easier to track down exporters through SARS data and work by two of my colleagues (Wim Naudé and Marianne Matthee) show interesting agglomerations.

Exporters typically require the thick labour markets, suppliers of intermediates, knowledge spillovers and infrastructure characteristic of agglomerations. In South Africa the port cities of Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban are key agglomerations but the landlocked Gauteng economy is the powerhouse.

Hopefully I will be taking a closer look at South Africa agglomerations in the year to come. Stay tuned...

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